Touched by a ... Bear

I was recently reminded of one of the most amazing moments of my life.

People want me to blog more and oddly - hilarious shit doesn't happen to me weekly so at times I must tell of a time past.

I was living in Phoenix at the time and my mother and I were traveling via aeroplane back to Chicago.  I call my mother "ma" cause I am from Chicago and I have always called her a quick form of mom.  Because of my accent, mom sounds like mam and I am lazy and leave off the last m and it becomes "ma".  Real hard on that a in "ma".  I remember hollering to her once "MA" and she flipped her lid, demanding I call her mother or mommy or mom.  "alright ma" I said.  Not everyone from Chicago does this.  I do.  Sue me.  I can't help the way I talk.

She is my 'ma' - that is the end of it.  (fun side story - unrelated)

So we were circling Chicago. I wanted to know what was going on so I tuned into the channel where you can listen to the pilot talk to ATC. The weather was shit in Chicago.  ATC told the pilot that we would have to land in Minneapolis (MSP - for those in the code know).  I announced to everyone around us that we were going to MSP.  Five minutes later the pilot announced that we were landing in MSP.  "How did you know that?" someone asked.  I listen to channel 9 when I must know what is up.

We land at MSP.  It is late at night - probably too late for a flight to ORD, but still we must know what to do.  We are all unloaded - hanging out at the airport.

My ma goes to the bathroom at some point.  I get up - I am listening to some tunes on my sweet yellow Sony walkman- y'all owned one.

Paying no attention to where I am going I walk into a man.  I say I am sorry and look up.

You know how when you are in a car accident or something the same - suddenly everything is in slow motion and you go deaf?  Your brain takes in every visual millisecond - recording every tiny moment of the event and lets your remember it scene for scene?

That is what happened.  I said I was sorry, looked up at this large man that I clumsily walked into - bounced off of him...and the second I recognized him as Mike Ditka - there was no sound - except for his words - slo-mo.   He said "its okay" and put each of his hands on my shoulders and physically removed me from his path of travel.  I stumbled a bit - in slow motion - and looked, turned around in amazement.  Then everything returned to normal.

You probably can't appreciate this unless you are from Chicago.  You can't appreciate it unless you remember the absolute hysteria over the 85 Bears.  The Super Bowl Shuffle, Sweetness, having a crush on Jim McMahon and that awesome sweatband. I've shown my age.

I went into the bathroom where my ma was and I said " Ma!!! I think Mike Ditka is on our plane" and some lady from another stall yelled out "Are you on the flight from Phoenix to Chicago?  He is - I was sitting next me - it is great!"

I like to refer to this as the time I was manhandled by Mike Ditka.  Because he did in fact manhandle me. 

Then we were all sitting around waiting to know the status of the flight.  Mike Ditka is standing up, leaning against the ticket counter. Chewing gum like a fucking cow.  Wearing a suit like it was his job.  It was the first time in my life I realized - a man could wear a suit or he could wear a fucking insanely expensive tailored suit.  There is a difference.  He is irate and hollerin' "The crew is illegal - the crew went illegal  - none of us are getting out of here".  He was a cartoon of himself.  He was the image the papers made him to be and it was happening in front of us.  The anger and gum chewing.  Everyone just sat around him like he was our Lord.  Everyone scared to look directly at him but believing his word.  Then randomly some brave - so fucking brave soul would approach his majesty and ask for an autograph.  I remember being frightened when the first one approached - I thought for sure he would murder them with a swipe of his mighty paw.  He signed the autographs in an unfriendly and irritated manner.

I love Mike Ditka.  I love that he actually does chew gum like a cow and has a fiery temper.  I love that I can say that he manhandled me.

When I reported this story to my friends in Phoenix -  my friend, Ted, asked - Did they put the shirt you were wearing in a museum in your town?  My favorite comment ever about this event.  That shirt should be in a museum.  Ditka worship is totally normal in Chicago. 

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