As a teenager, I was the school ringleader. Loved and feared. Loathed and respected. My role model was Charlie Chaplin. Just kidding! My idol, the man who made me shudder, who haunted my dreams, was Al Capone.

Romantic comedies didn’t do anything for me. I hoarded books and movies about Capone, and my bedroom walls were lined with his best photos: Al fishing, Al at a baseball game, Al smoking a cigar, Al in a bathing suit, Al with his gang. Above my bed hung a portrait of Al at his most handsome, sporting his white Panama hat, a three-piece suit, and a striped necktie. He gazed at me with his light, twinkling eyes that seemed to laugh, even though he wasn’t smiling. Such a baby face!

Al Capone Portrait

And so it was that years later, when I moved to Chicago, I obviously had to retrace my mentor’s steps.

What a disappointment to discover that the Lexington Hotel, where he kept his offices, had been demolished. Sacrilege.

My eyes filled with tears, but I kept my dignity as I stood before the small parking lot that had taken the place of the garage where the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre went down.

And I was happy again, at the Green Mill on North Broadway. This legendary spot, known the world over by jazz lovers, had seen the salad days of Al Capone’s gang, especially Jack McGurn, alias Machine Gun, who managed the club. Machine Gun was the alleged mastermind of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. The circle was closed. Seated at a table where Al himself once sat, surrounded by pictures of my idol, I listened to the music and let my eyes drift over the thirties décor, imagining things that were no longer there to see.

To be continued…

Translated from French by Kenneth Barger 🙂