Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fillinger

I'll never forget Fillinger. He lived for a time in this flatiron building on the right. He lived with his mom here and always complained about the steamy summer nights on Portland Street. "Gawd, I fell asleep last night with my head hanging out the second story window." I had worked at the cemetery for two years pushing a lawnmower the first summer and then running a weed whacker  around the gravestones, the second. Things changed bigtime that third summer. Tom and and I got assigned to help 'that old guy' clean stones, and my summer job scene was never the same. He was seventy plus years old, knew the hidden stories of the city and always had entertaining highlights to get us through the day. He was a recovering alcoholic, who often would regale us with unforgettable, zany narrations featuring his 'history' with the bottle. His hilarious accounts, told with a deadpan expression, were so 'day stopping' memorable, how could anyone forget a character like him. Oh, and the 20+ summer workers all had nicknames. He never, EVER called me by my given name. I don't think he knew it at all and didn't care. I was Rocker, and that was it. The names were, in some cases unapologetic, and often ladened with very politically-incorrect terminology. For him, they were dead-on and truisms. Whether you liked them or not, no one cared. And you best not ask for a 'do-over'. There was Drugboy, Foureyes, the Professor, Glamor, Gummer, Card Shark, Boss, Queer, Rocker, Black Bart, Copper, Porn Star and a bunch of others that would be far too inappropriate to be listed here. How he came up with them, I'll never know. He never felt any need to explain, and after awhile you never asked. As you might imagine, summers there were one wild 8 hour ride. 
And yes, even Elenka got branded too. She was Doris, because as he told me one afternoon waiting for the bus, "Cripes (no, he didn't use this word), you're gonna marry Doris Day someday!"
*Yes, he was invited to our wedding, but true to the mysterious gent, never showed.   

22 comments:

  1. Fascinating story. :) Love the street scene.

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  2. Oh yes, I even signed Birdman's birthday cards as 'Doris' for several years. True.

    I never met or even laid eyes on him.

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  3. He sounds like quite a character and quite intuitive too! From Rocker to Birdman, an interesting transition.

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  4. The kind of character that would deserve a book about him. At least, he'll have this moving post!

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  5. what a character! what a ride that must have been.

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  6. I used to know some characters. They have been bled out of American industry. Everybody is Bob and Betty now.

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  7. What a great time you all had working and listening to this gent.

    I hear Creedence too. MB

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  8. Nice post and I like the colors you captured in this shot.

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  9. Another fantastic post! And I love your comments at Portland Oregon Daily Photo. Thanks!

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  10. Have always liked "characters". Fillinger certainly would fulfill my idea of one. -- barbara

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  11. Fillinger sounds as zany as Klinger on "Mash." Lots of fun, though, right, Rocker?

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  12. Another cool story from Birdman!

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  13. A wonderful post. Feel like I knew him too.

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  14. Fillinger had a cousin in my home town named Herlihy. In three years of working on his crew in the summer, I never heard a sentence that did not work the F-word in somewhere. Invite Herlihy to my wedding? You gotta be kidding!

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  15. Another memorable experience, Rocker Birdman...Maybe sometime you would share some of his stories of the city?

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  16. You have some of the best childhood stories. What a character!

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  17. I'm not familiar with a flatilron building. I thought flatirons were cuts of steak or things to iron your hair with!

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  18. Fascinating tale of an unforgetable character!

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  19. I can see you as The Rocker. Which name might I have gotten? But hilarious drinking tales have tragedy under the surface or at the end.

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  20. There are not enough 'Fillingers' around these days, what do you think 'Professor'??

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  21. what a character...you paint him so clearly.

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  22. Fillinger sounds larger than life!

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