I received a bit of sad news last night. One of my favorite people of all-time passed away on April 30.
Roger Chebba has left us. He was 88.
If you ever spent time in Timboo’s Bar down on 5th avenue and 11th street you knew Roger. (I still remember the phone number at Timboo’s; 788-9782 – I called the bar so many times looking for my father…)
The joint closed down for good about five years ago.
They don’t make them anymore like Roger. He’s one of the last cast of characters from the good old days.
(Above – Stevie B, Angelo Dundee and Roger)
Back in the day, when I was in my early teens, on Saturday mornings the Gooch (my father) would take me down to Timboo’s. I’ll never forget keeping my eyes on Roger all day long.
He always stood at the end of the bar. His favorite spot. I watched him like a hawk.
“So I could see who walks in,” was Roger’s response one Saturday afternoon when I asked him why he always stands in the same spot.
Roger was the best.
He was my guy.
There were times as a young boy I wished Roger was my father.
Great pool player too. I used to love to watch Roger break. He was by far the best. The balls went everywhere and of course he always managed to sink one or two.
My guy Phil told me this morning before Roger became an Ironworker (Local 40) he was an amateur boxer down in Florida. His trainer? Angelo Dundee…
Roger’s nickname was, get this; “Battling Billy Prince.”
Condolences to the entire Chebba family.
Roger’s daughters Lori and Lee Ann are aces…
Walking past the newsstand on ninth street and fifth avenue I glance at the stack of newspapers. There’s the Post and the Daily News piled high. The stack for the New York Times not so high. I stop and flip the Post over. Knicks won last night 118-111, hooray!
Love my Knickerbockers. Haven’t been to the Garden in a while though.
Usually I go and use my student I.D. card. You can get a ticket for half price so I buy an eight dollar ticket for four, not bad right? Start out in the blue seats and work my way down.
Knicks home games are on MSG but we don’t have cable. Away games are on WOR so I never miss when the Knicks are on the road.
“Hey kid you gonna buy that paper or what?” the guy behind the counter asks me. He never smiles. Smokes a nasty cigar.
I look at him and drop the paper back down on the pile.
Walking away I make my way across fifth avenue and over to Timboo’s, two blocks away.
“Anyone see Gooch?” I shout as I pop my head in the bar.
Timmy the bartender is behind the bar wiping down some bottles and two guys are sitting at the bar drinking. No one says a thing.
Who can drink this early?
Crossing fifth avenue I head over to the 12th street diner. I walk in and it’s packed. Looking around there’s no sign of Gooch.
“Yo Mary you see my father?” I ask the blonde waitress.
“No sweetie, sorry.”
Where is he?
Told me to meet him down here at nine.
He does this a lot.
Walked all the way down here for nothing.
Apartment, Basketball, Black Belt, Bookie, Coffee, Cube Steak, Dee-Dee, Father, Gambling, Georgia Tech, Girlfriend, Karate, Marquette, Money, Mother, Ninth Avenue, Ninth street, Thanksgiving, Windsor Place, YMCA
Day After Thanksgiving…
“Can I have ten dollars?” I ask my mother as she sits on the couch watching television, sipping a cup of black coffee.
Without looking at me, she asks, “For what?”
Every time I ask her for money, she always questions me.
“There’s a basketball clinic tonight at the YMCA,” I replied.
“No, I don’t have it.” She barked as her eyes never left the screen.
I don’t even know why I ask anymore? Just once I want to hear, “Sure, here you go sweetie. Have a good time.”
I mumble something under my breath as I walk away.
Mom ignored me.
Usually after I mumble something she’ll say, “WHAT DID YOU SAY MISTER?”
As I walk out of our apartment she shouts, “GO DOWN TO TIMBOO’S AND ASK YOUR FATHER!”
I haven’t seen that prick in weeks.
He doesn’t give a shit about me but it’s a worth a try.
I remember he used to come by on Saturday mornings to get me. We’d head down to Timboo’s and I would spend the whole afternoon there. But before we got to Timboo’s we’d stop off at the Cube Steak on ninth street for breakfast.
Walking out of our apartment, I hang a left on Windsor Place, down the block, past my girl’s house and across seventh avenue.
For late November, it’s actually a nice day. The sun is out and it has to be at least fifty degrees.
It didn’t cross my mind to ask my girlfriend to walk down to Timboo’s with me. All I thought about was getting the money from my father for the clinic. Besides, I was just with her last night until midnight. She’s probably still sleeping.
When I get to 11th street I make a left and head towards fifth avenue.
Outside Timboo’s there’s a few guys standing on the corner shooting the breeze.
Red D. has a cup of coffee in his right hand. Roger C. is leaning against the lamp post reading the New York Post and Dee-Dee is checking out a hot girl across the avenue.
“Wow, look at that honey over there,” Dee-Dee muttered.
We all look over at her. Even Roger interrupts his reading to take a peek.
“She’s young enough to be your daughter,” Red implied.
“Shit, if there’s grass on the field, let’s play ball!” Dee-Dee insisted.
All three guys laugh. Even I had to smile. And Dee-Dee was right, he was fine.
There’s always hot babes on fifth avenue.
I turn around and look through the front window of Timboo’s to see if my father is in there. He’s always in the same spot at the bar. If he’s not in his spot, he’s on the pay phone by the window.
There’s three guys in there, including the bartender.
Dad’s not there.
“Stevie, what’s up kid?” Red D. asks as he looks over at me.
“Hey Red, you see my father?”
“He’s not here yet, should be here soon though. I’m waiting for him too, he owes me some money.”
Roger picks his head up from the paper. Red smiles at him.
“That was some bet last night,” Roger noted.
“I knew Georgia Tech wouldn’t cover,” Red bragged.
That was some game. I watched the whole thing.
Dee-Dee walks over to me and puts both fists up like a boxer and gets down in a stance.
“Come on Stevie, put ’em up baby!”
I stand there and watch him bob and weave.
Dee-Dee is a black belt and is always looking to get me to learn Karate. Every time I see him, he wants to spar.
He scares me. Not in a bad way but now he starts jumping around and kicking into the air like Bruce Lee.
What the fuck?
I think to myself.
He’ll kill me if one of those kicks land at my head.
Dee-Dee taps me on the head with an open palm and walks into the bar.
I could never learn Karate, I’d get my ass kicked but it would be cool to be able to karate chop someone and peg someone with a flying drop kick.
Plus, no one would fuck with me if I knew Karate.
“Hey kid,” Roger says as he walks past me, stuffing his newspaper in the back of his pants.
“Who you like today?” he adds.
Before I could answer, he’s inside the bar.
Roger is always asking me who I like?
He doesn’t mean which girls I like either. He wants to know which teams I like to win or which ones will cover the spread?
Red’s alone on the corner now, sipping at his coffee as he continues to look around the empty streets.
I’m sure he’s keeping an eye out for my father. Red’s head is on a swivel. Looking left, then right.
My father’s a bookie.
Red bet Marquette last night, he was getting five points. They won the game outright by two.
I have given serious thoughts to placing bets on basketball games. I read the betting lines every morning. I circle who I think will cover. I usually get a lot of games right when I check the scores the following day.
But my father would probably never let me gamble.
Wonder how much Red had on the game?
I hope my father can give me the ten dollars for the clinic.
“Frustration leads to anger. Anger to violence. Don’t get frustrated.”
Saturday morning in February.
It’s so cold in our apartment.
I have two blankets covering me, a sweatshirt and a pair of white long johns. I’m wearing a pair of white tube socks.
Glancing over at my digital clock on the table it says 4:35.
Thank God I can still sleep some more. But how can I sleep? Mom is having another fight with her boyfriend.
They are out in the living room, screaming at each other.
My sister who is nine, slept over my cousin’s house last night so she’s safe.
My older brother who’s 17 is not home. I know this because we have bunk beds and he sleeps on the top.
I’m not only cold, I’m scared.
Mom’s boyfriend is mean. He’s vicious and strong too. His temper is out of control.
What makes it worse is when he’s drunk, like he is now, he’s twice as bad.
This is becoming the norm on Saturday mornings.
It’s hard to understand what they are yelling about. Their speech is slurred.
The shouting match goes on for what seems like an hour. But finally they are quiet. Too quiet if you ask me. I decide to get up from the bed, I’m not scared of him. I’ll pick up my Louisville slugger which sits close by and smack him across the fuckin’ head.
I look out of my room towards the living room. I see mom on the couch and her boyfriend on the living room floor.
Looks like they both passed out.
How can they go from screaming at each other to sleeping?
It’s still dark outside. In the past I have run out of the apartment to the schoolyard to get away from all the bullshit.
But I think I’m going to stick this one out.
I make my way closer to where they are sleeping.
Looking at my mom she has her mouth open a little bit and she still has her clothes on. The boyfriend is on his stomach, sprawled out on the carpet. I can smell booze and cigarettes. I’m sure they were in Timboo’s all night.
I don’t think he has hit her though, usually when he does she screams really loud.
One time he hit her so hard he gave her a black-eye. Our landlord downstairs called the police and Doyle came by and placed the cuffs on him and took him away. I stuck my head out the window and saw him ushered into the back seat of the patrol car. Before he got in he looked up at me and smiled.
I gave him the finger.
Figuring that would be the last we saw of him, to my surprise he was back two days later. Mom never pressed charges.
Standing over them in the living room I feel like Mills Lane, the boxing ref standing over two boxers who knocked each other out.
But there’s no one around pleading for them to get up. I’m not counting to ten either. I don’t want them to get up. I hope he never gets up. As for mom, she can sleep as long as she wants.
In 1969 my father stopped living with us. I was five.
Fatherless during a time a boy needed a strong male influence the most.
My mother began dating. There were many losers that showed up at our front door. Matter of fact, out of all the men she dated, I can’t recall one good one. There was a guy whose name was Joe, he was a complete asshole.
I spotted him from a mile away.
He was a phony. Full of shit. And to top it off, he loved the bottle.
I first met Joe in January of 1983 during a Super Bowl party in Timboo’s.
My father invited me down to watch the game between the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. Dad’s nickname was “Gooch” I have no idea how he got it. One day I asked him and he ignored me.
Despite Gooch not living with us I’d visit him down at the bar from time to time. I think it started back when I was twelve. On Saturday mornings he would come by 228A Prospect Park West to pick me up.
I loved hanging out in Timboo’s. Only problem though, my mother was there that night too. I sat in a booth alone drinking glasses of soda and eating pretzels. My mother stood in the corner at one end of the bar with her friends and the Gooch stood at the opposite end with his friends keeping an eye on the game.
At half-time the Dolphins led 17-10. Someone dropped a few quarters in the Jukebox and the jams started playing. With music blasting throughout the bar, Timboo’s turned into American Bandstand. The patrons began dancing, including mom. Gooch stayed on his end shaking his head in disgust.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?” I heard Gooch ask out loud.
Mom was dancing to ABBA’s, “Dancing Queen” with some tall guy that had long, dark hair and glasses. He was kind of goofy.
After the song ended she brought him over to where I was sitting. The second half was about to start so I had no interest in talking to them.
“Steven I want you to meet Joe,” she said.
“I’m watching the game,” I replied as I had my eyes glued to the TV.
Mom and her friend stood there.
“Well, hello to you,” the guy said sarcastically to me as they both walked away back to their spot at the bar.
“Yeah, stay the fuck over there,” I said.
I wasn’t interested in meeting him. I hated every guy my mother dated. This one was no different.
After the game was over, which the Redskins won 27-17 the Gooch called a car service and sent me home. As I was walking towards the front door of the bar, I noticed mom playing pinball with the long-haired creep standing behind her watching her closely. Too close if you ask me.
The car service was out in front on fifth avenue waiting for me.
“Forget the car, the guy is staying,” I shouted to the driver as he pulled away. I kept the five bucks Gooch gave me and walked home. When I got home I grabbed my basketball and went to the schoolyard.
It was close to midnight. I didn’t want to be home when they got there. I figured they would just fall asleep soon as they got there.
The long-haired creep wound up moving in with us. He paid our rent and bought our groceries; he had a pretty good job so my mother really liked him.
One night he came home piss drunk. This turned into a normal occurrence. It seemed like we had an argument every night. I was sitting on the couch watching the Knicks game.
“You stole money from me,” he said as he stepped in front of the television blocking my view.
“No I didn’t, get the fuck out-of-the-way, asshole!”
Mom was in the kitchen on the phone.
“Yes you did, you little fuck!”
I really wasn’t in the mood to argue with him so I got up off the couch and began to walk away.
“You’re a thief,” he shouted to me as he grabbed my arm.
“Get your fucking hands off me, asshole!” I screamed at him. His breathe stunk and he had a hard time standing. All I had to do was blow on him and I’m sure he’d fall down.
“What’s going on?” mom asked, as she hung up the phone.
“Your son stole money from me.”
“I thought you were going to let me handle it?” I heard her ask him as I walked into my bedroom.
“Fuck it, I’m gonna handle it,” he said.
The drunken bum began to walk towards my room.
“JOE, STOP IT!” mom screamed at him as he ignored her.
The bum had accused me of stealing money from him (he was right, but I denied it)
As he stood in front of my room, the yelling continued. I had a hard time understanding him, his speech was slurred due to the alcohol. I got up from my bed, pushed him out-of-the-way and ran out of the apartment.
“C’MON MOTHERFUCKER, STEP OUTSIDE!” I screamed from the hallway.
Mom and Joe were arguing in the apartment.
“COME ON YOU DRUNKEN BUM, LET’S SEE HOW TOUGH YOU ARE!” I added as I walked down the stairs.
I never expected him to follow me downstairs but as I got down the two flights of stairs I heard him yelling at my mother on his way down the stairs.
“I’m gonna teach this kid a lesson,” he said as my mother screamed at him not to hurt me.
I was going to wait for him to come out the front door and clobber him with my Louisville slugger. I could hear my mother out the window.
“STEVEN, GET YOUR ASS BACK UP HERE!” she screamed.
“NO, HE’S AN ASSHOLE, I DIDN’T STEAL HIS MONEY!” as I looked up at her, lumber in hand, ready to tee off.
“What are you gonna do with that bat?” she asked.
“I’m gonna smash his fuckin’ head in.”
I noticed a few of my friends walking across the ninth avenue towards me.
“Yo Fin, what’s goin on?” John asked me.
“This mother fucker coming down the stairs is gonna get it!” I said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of him,” John assured me.
Boy did they take care of him. They went after mom’s boyfriend the minute he stepped out on the sidewalk.
Joe never messed with me again.
And no, the official scorer did not charge me with an at-bat.