North By Midwest

In 1996, I moved from a shoebox-sized apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview area to a shockingly enormous one-bedroom residence on Isabella Avenue in Cincinnati. It was time to be closer to my family, I believed, and, since I was involved in an industry that was “prêt-a-porter,” I knew finding employment in the Queen City would not be difficult. I was right, too. I began serving at Jekyll’s Steakhouse in the Hyde Park/Oakley neighborhood shortly after arriving.

Around 2pm one autumn afternoon, when the tide of the lunch rush began to ebb and my thoughts turned to the short walk home, I glanced at a table where two men sat. The gentleman positioned to the left of the plot of artificial green flora that was the restaurant’s centerpiece was not particularly noteworthy. But there was something remarkable about his companion, a wiry-haired chap with a solid, gray beard and thin-rimmed glasses.  I had seen him somewhere in Chicago shortly before leaving. But I could not marry his features with a time or location. I approached and talked with him, once my conjecturing became frustration.

“Excuse me, sir,” I interrupted,” I just moved from Chicago about a month ago and you look very familiar to me. Only, I forget where we’ve met.”

“You just moved from Chicago?” he inquired, eying me through shiny spectacles.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then, yes, you have seen me,” he replied in a kindly, yet matter-of-fact manner,” My name is Phil Jackson. I coach a little team called The Bulls.”

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