Monday, March 7, 2016

WHERE THE RIVER BENDS

THE RON I KNEW

Temecula, CA – In 1972 after the political mess was over with Richard M. Nixon's re-election [my first rodeo after the civil rights part in my young life], I moved from Indianapolis to Davenport, Iowa, a place where the Mississippi River runs from east to west before bending and shifting south. It was a paradigm shift for me as well.

Living the two years previous in a large multi-district mega-city made moving to the river town seem like a step back in time, a point I reference to in Memoirs of Mr. Pete & Mary Jane Green, Chapter 4, Fields of Gold [Bud]*. Over the next twenty or so years there were many adventures which happened that shaped my outlook and philosophy of life, including the start down the path less-traveled. The adventures told in my book are memorable to me and I hope entertaining to its readers, since all the tales are true.


The main theme, the social, sexual, political, esoteric, and commercial sides of cannabis on my life all had their sidings to separate adventures that didn't make the cut, as they say. One of the most interesting side stories developed when I first became the premier weed slinger in downtown Davenport. You see, I had business cards.

'Captain Dan's – Promotion & Distribution' business cards were printed up in black and green ink. One day when I returned home [in the days of answering machines], I got this message, “Hello, this is Ron Bellomy. I was looking to Captain Dan's for some distribution. At your convenience, please stop by Riverbend Antiques, the owner. Thank you.”

Now everyone in Davenport knows the name Riverbend Antiques. At the time in my book it was the largest single owner antique shop either in the country or west of the Mississippi. There were floors of stuff, ranging from horse collars and old time slot machines to complete bedroom parlors. This included all the trimmings, like curtains. Even the dust in the place was antique.

Each item was labeled with a stringed plain white card-stock tag listing the name, maybe a two-word description of what it was, the circa date, a number, and the price. The item number corresponded to the date of purchase recorded in high school 3-ring notebooks collected in two large antique hotel ledger binders that gave a more detailed breakdown of the item, including if it was rare. Daily people would stop by the shop to sell things for a pittance that Ron would later make a handsome profit from owning.

Now you might say that's highway robbery but that's the antique market. What you acquire at your cost can be sold for what you think it's worth, someday, because whatever it is, sooner or later, someone will come along who just has to have it, be it a lamp that costs $2.00 but retails later for $45 or a unique chair lowboy armoire obtained for $100, now priced at $1500. The problem is item buyers come along every so often for any one particular thing so a large inventory of both things you had heard of and things you haven't, is crucial. With the reference books, paperback and antique hardcover, there wasn't much Ron didn't know about antiques. Plus he usually had work in the back, for restoration.

Ron Bellomy, like the store, was also well known; mostly because of the store but also because of his local celebrity status. Ron was 'in'. If someone famous came to town, chances are they would have a picture taken with Ron in front of the dollhouse like entrance because they would come there to shop. Outside the place stood a real tobacco store wooden Indian, holding cigars. He was 'The Chief' and he was wheeled out every day the shop was open. In fact, the place wasn't open until The Chief went out. It was the last part of a morning ritual. Hollywood knew of Ron and his store because many times he would supply an antique prop for a period or Art Deco piece. So if you could say there was any person with such a renowned status that even the city and state bigwigs all called Boss, it was Ron.

I got to the shop and parked my car by one of the meters outside close to the driveway, climbed the porch stairs, opened the old sturdy wooden door with a bell tingle, then walked into someone's dream of an attic. There was stuff everywhere, even hanging from the ceiling on wires. But I was there on business, funny business. He said, “Let's go out to the courtyard.”


Now I had walked by this place dozens of times as it is right downtown across from a large public parking lot or it was the last time I saw it [2015]. I had never ever seen a courtyard or an entrance, but between the building with the dollhouse porch and the next building over, which was also a brick structure lay a narrow and what seemed an alley entrance. Actually this tall wooden gate, the Garden Party gate led to a small but long well-kept courtyard complete with old brick pathway, a sundial, plus swings, benches and cafe tables behind the shop. People usually went across at the narrowest part of this place when going from one building's rear exit to the rear side door of the next because of the common back secluded courtyard. Most folks were so enamored by coming through the first narrow maze way of antique-filled rooms that as they went from building to building, they blinked and missed it.

We sat there under a shade tree maybe fifteen feet away from the shopper crossing at a decorative antique wrought iron garden table. As I sat across from the man who looked to be the handsome younger brother of Col. Sanders in facial hair features, who wore a straw Panama hat and easy smile, I felt like a Don Johnson.

“I had a soiree the other night, just a few friends who happened to be visiting in from New Orleans and they bring over this street person that they had met, a really delightful fellow; and he has this sac of weed. I don't smoke that often but it was some old friends and so I did. I was impressed. When I inquired about this pot, he pops out this business card. I said, 'Well!' He said, 'Keep it. I can always get another one. He's my cuz.”

Now I have to say, Sports Fans, that to be sitting in a spot that looked like somewhere in New York, maybe LA, Chicago, or San Francisco, but someplace anywhere but Davenport, Iowa, it was 'a dance on the bar' moment. I was cheesing on the inside as he asked if I had anything with me. Like Tony Soprano, I was packing. Also like Tony Soprano, you are missed, Ron Bellomy. R.I.P.
(*- A song by Sting, one of the many scattered music references in Memoirs, some of which might be obscure, see rear book jacket text for the reason why, Amazon)

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