They kept Red Man tobacco behind the counter at Pik-Kwik, where we bought baseball cards and Everlasting Gobstoppers. Red Man had an Indian chief on the pouch. If you found an Indian chief on a Tootsie Pop wrapper, you got free Tootsie Pops for life.
The Indian chief on the Chicago Blackhawks jersey was the coolest thing in sports. Tony Esposito was my favorite hockey player. I got his Black-hawks goalie mask for Christmas. It featured his "facsimile signature." I picked it out of the Sears catalogue.
I watched football on TV with my dad and brothers. One day Dad peered from behind his paper and pointed at the Oakland Raiders center—at the name on the back of his jersey: OTTO. My dad leaned out of his chair and stage-whispered, "Palindrome." Then he disappeared behind his paper, and I smiled and got gooseflesh because my brothers didn't know what my dad and I were talking about, and we would never tell them about palindromes.
I was born in Chicago, and we went back to visit every other summer. I was a Cubs fan, but I didn't get to Wrigley Field until I was 14. By that age I was embarrassed to be seen in public with my parents. So the first time I entered the Friendly Confines my knees buckled, my stomach flip-flopped and my heart went like a paint shaker—while, on the outside, I acted like being there was no big deal.
Same thing happens when I go there now.