The Name Dropper
By Patrick F. Cannon
(This is retelling of a classic tale that I explored a few years ago. Here, I have personalized and Celtcized it. During this fraught period, I will try to generate a few smiles to help mitigate some of the grim news. Another positive thing we could all do is consider donating a portion (or all) of the cash payments the government plans to send us. Not all of us will need this windfall. If you don’t, why not donate to organizations that are struggling; or to individuals and families that are without income?)
Most of us have known someone like Shaughnessy on our travels through life. You know, the braggart, they guy who knows everything and everyone? I met him in grammar school on Chicago’s great South Side. His father was something for the city, and Shaughnessy claimed he was Mayor Kennelly’s best friend and confidant. He also claimed that President Truman often called his old man to ask for advice.
More pertinent to his fellow students, he said his father was a proud graduate of Notre Dame, and counted the legendary Frank Leahy as a pal. Oh, and George Halas was a regular dinner guest at Chez Shaughnessy. While the White Sox didn’t offer much to brag about then, the owners, the Comiskey family, often made their private box available for an afternoon of watching the Sox lose to the hated Yankees.
Even at that young age, I have to confess that I took whatever he said with a grain of salt. When I was in 7th grade, we moved away. Many years later, I moved back to Chicago. I was living on the North Side, and one day, on a whim, I went back to the old neighborhood to see how it had fared. Sure enough, the legendary local tavern, Ryan’s, was still there. My father had been a regular, and often the whole family would gather there on a Sunday for their famous fried shrimp. I decided to stop in for a beer, and sure enough, there at the bar was Shaughnessy, holding forth with his old chum, Kelly.
How did I know it was him?, you might ask. Even after all those years, the pug nose, red hair and booming basso were unmistakable. I walked over. “Shaughnessy,” I said, “nice to see you after all these years.” He looked up, puzzled. “Pat Cannon,” I said, “we were at St. Brigid’s together.”
“Of course! It’s been years. What have you been up to?”
I won’t bore you with the next few minutes of catching up. I bought a round of Hamm’s, and while it was being served the television news was reporting on the new Pope, who had just been elected. Kelly, wise to his ways, said: “I suppose you know the new Pope?”
“Of course I do”, says Shaughnessy, “I met him at the Cardinal’s when he was visiting Chicago when he was just an Archbishop. We hit it off big time. He speaks great English, and I took him out to dinner at Henrici’s. Of course, he wore civvies, so everyone wouldn’t be coming up asking to kiss his ring. Then, when he was Cardinal in Milan, Mary and I stayed with him at his palace when we went to Italy on vacation.”
This was too much, even for the long-suffering Kelly. “I don’t believe you, and I’ll tell you what. Janey has always wanted to go to Rome. Let’s the four of us go, and if you can prove you know the Pope while we’re there, I’ll pay for all of us!”
“You’re on,” says Shaughnessy. “How about October?”
Well, after we finished our Hamm’s, I left, promising to keep in touch. As it happened, it was near Thanksgiving when I was downtown and bumped into Kelly as he was leaving City Hall. I couldn’t resist asking him how his trip to Rome had gone.
“We had a great time, but I kept bugging Shaughnessy to prove he knew the new Pope. Finally, he said the next day the Pope was going to come out on his balcony and bless the multitude in St. Peter’s Square. I should be there and keep an eye on the balcony. So I went, and to make sure I had a good view, brought along my binoculars. There was a vast crowd waiting and watching the balcony. Finally, out comes the Pope; just behind him comes Shaughnessy! I couldn’t believe it! Just then, I feel someone tugging on my sleeve. It was a tiny little nun. “Sister?”, I says. And she responds: “who is that on the balcony with Shaughnessy?”
Copyright 2020 (this version anyway), Patrick F. Cannon