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The Gay Old Dog
Those of you who have dwelt--or even lingered--in Chicago, Illinois, are familiar with
the region known as the Loop. For those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer
point between New York and California there is presented this brief explanation:
The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the iron arms of the
elevated tracks. In a city boasting fewer millions, it would be known familiarly as
downtown. From Congress to Lake Street, from Wabash almost to the river, those
thunderous tracks make a complete circle, or loop. Within it lie the retail shops, the
commercial hotels, the theaters, the restaurants. It is the Fifth Avenue and the Broadway
of Chicago.
And he who frequents it by night in search of amusement and cheer is known, vulgarly,
as a Loop-hound.
Jo Hertz was a Loop-hound. On the occasion of those sparse first nights granted the
metropolis of the Middle West he was always present, third row, aisle, left. When a new
Loop cafe' was opened, Jo's table always commanded an unobstructed view of anything
worth viewing. On entering he was wont to say, "Hello, Gus," with careless cordiality to
the headwaiter, the while his eye roved expertly from table to table as he removed his
gloves. He ordered things under glass, so that his table, at midnight or thereabouts,
resembled a hotbed that favors the bell system. The waiters fought for him. He was the
kind of man who mixes his own salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked
ice, lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil and make a rite of it. People at
near-by tables would lay down their knives and forks to watch, fascinated. The secret of
it seemed to lie in using all the oil in sight and calling for more.
That was Jo--a plump and lonely bachelor of fifty. A plethoric, roving- eyed, and kindly
man, clutching vainly at the garments of a youth that had long slipped past him. Jo Hertz,
in one of those pinch-waist suits and a belted coat and a little green hat, walking up
Michigan Avenue of a bright winter's afternoon, trying to take the curb with a jaunty
youthfulness against which every one of his fat-encased muscles rebelled, was a sight for
mirth or pity, depending on one's vision.
The gay-dog business was a late phase in the life of Jo Hertz. He had been a quite
different sort of canine. The staid and harassed brother of three unwed and selfish sisters
is an underdog.
At twenty-seven Jo had been the dutiful, hard-working son (in the wholesale harness
business) of a widowed and gummidging mother, who called him Joey. Now and then a
double wrinkle would appear between Jo's eyes--a wrinkle that had no business there at
twenty-seven. Then Jo's mother died, leaving him handicapped by a deathbed promise,
the three sisters, and a three-story-and-basement house on Calumet Avenue. Jo's wrinkle
became a fixture.