Confessions of an ALTAR BOY

When I was 12, my buddy Brian was scheduled to serve mass for a week in the summer. It was the 6:30 am mass. The other server backed out because what the hell–it was the 6:30 am mass in summer–and instead of going through the procedure of calling the other servers on the list of people who had actually signed up to be altar boys, Brian just snagged me.

“Wanna serve mass with me this week?”

“What the fuck, I ain’t doing nothing.”

I never signed up for anything, but I was always up for an adventure. I had been going to church since before I was born so I knew all the parts. I knew when to ring the bells. And I was determined to ring them just a little too long. Extend the ringing time to a slightly uncomfortable length.

“Let me ring the bells.”

“. . .”

“You don’t understand, I need to ring the bells.”

“. . .”


Brian swung by my house and we headed out. We had enough time to stop at this bakery on 111th Street to get some doughnuts. And we both had money for doughnuts. We were prepared to pay for the doughnuts is what I’m getting at.

We walked in and the bells on the door went jingle and I thought of how I was going to ring the FUCK out of those four bells in that damn church. Ring the ever-loving SHIT out of them.

Racks of freshly baked stuff were all over the place. They must have just rolled out of the oven because nothing was in the display cases yet. No one came to the counter even though the bell on the door had screamed “Hey you guys! Hey guys! You got customers, guys!” in its jingle-speak.

I grabbed a jelly-filled and Brian grabbed whatever doughnuts Brians eat and we brought them to the counter and waited a bit.  I asked “Hello?”loud enough to be heard.

Still, no one emerged.

We waited. One of us said “Hello?” again. No one answered our demands to pay for our altar boy breakfasts.

“We gotta go, we’ll be late to mass,” said Brian.

So we left. With the doughnuts. There was no debate or struggle or attempt to guess how much the doughnuts cost and leave that money on the counter. We just goddamned left. We weren’t conflicted in the least. This isn’t a Judy Blume book.

We came back and took doughnuts every day that week. I assume if we had served mass any longer than that, we may have considered taking something else, like the cash register. But we stuck with one doughnut each. Every day.

The best part? God rewarded me. That’s right. After mass one of those days, after nearly snapping my wrist getting my bells on, a woman came up to me and tipped me a dollar. She told me I looked angelic serving mass. That was God telling me that I could eat stolen doughnuts in His house as long as I looked “angelic” while doing it. I think that rule also applies to our criminal justice system. I’m not sure. Because no one arrested me over the doughnuts and I think the statute of limitations has reached its limit.

How you like me now?

Trust me, I also did horrible stuff as a stock boy and a busboy.

When I worked at the Chateau Bel-Aire banquet hall  in Oak Lawn a few years later, busing tables, I drank one 6oz Miller High Life every time I grabbed a tray of ice cream to serve to wedding guests. Those little Miller Killers were sitting in the same freezer as the ice cream–what the hell was I supposed to do? So small. So cold. So drinkable.

The summer I worked there was to be Chateau Bel-Aire’s last summer. That October, it was going to be destroyed to make way for a bank. Obviously that meant CBA was observing a hiring freeze. Also a bunch of people said “fuck this noise” and quit. For those of us who said “What the hell, I ain’t doing nothing,” and stayed, it meant long hours. Some Saturdays I would get there to set up for a morning party at 7 am. I’d work that party, break it down, set up for a wedding reception, work the reception, break it down, and then do dishes until 2 in the morning. All while getting progressively drunker.

You see, laws are for places and people with futures. So no one asked too many questions about where all the beer was going and why it took me so long to grab a tray of ice cream. Also, the bar back (a kid who brings supplies to the bartender) kept handing me glasses full of Coke Enhanced. Coke Enhanced is like Diet Coke only with a few more calories and a whole lot more spiced rum.

At the end of every shift, me and my other buddy, Jason, would take a bottle of wine each and drink it before heading over to Dunkin’ Donuts and calling my mom for a ride home from the payphone because I was too young to drive.

This post goes a long way in explaining why my mom has a resting bitch face.


Sorry mom I guess this means the baptism didn’t take.




  1. I’m surprised you didn’t barf your guts out (or perhaps you left that part out) because beer + spiced rum + wine = I feel queasy just writing that equation.

    Also given what karma does with your kids when you made your parents’ life hell…I guess that which doesn’t kill you will give you blog post material.

    • jeffandjill

      11/12/2014 at 4:53 pm

      You know what, there was much much much vomiting. Because what I also didn’t include is that when I went to sleep every night that summer, it was on a waterbed. and that puke just rolled out all summer long.

  2. You know, I would think a good, bell-ringing altar boy would know that “mass” is spelled with A CAPITAL M.

    *drops mic*
    *exits stage left*

    Just kidding. This was fucking hilarious. Great post 🙂

    • jeffandjill

      11/12/2014 at 4:52 pm

      You’re right. I’ll say 5 Hail Mary’s for penance. I would go back and fix it, but then your comment would make no sense. And also laziness.

      Thanks, Sarah!

  3. Great story, takes me back to when I was an altar boy. And we used to munch on the unblessed communion hosts. Good times…

    • jeffandjill

      11/13/2014 at 11:26 am

      Yeah, I served that week with Curran. Did you hear how he ended up? He was in the document dump the Archdiocese of Chicago made last year. Shocking and depressing.

      • great entry here! I remember when Billy Leverenz and I served a stations of the cross and he took the incense brickette and tossed it in the ashtray and started a mini fire in the sacristy. The brickette, which wasn’t intended by Billy, to do any harm, broke the ashtray (why the hell was there an ashtray in the sacristy? Oh yeah the priests would drop f bombs and smoke there between masses.) anyway.. The glass ashtray popped and shattered and the smoldering brickette fell onto the carpet and burnt it all up. After the mass, Billy proceeded to take the bag of unconsecrated hosts and eat them on the walk home like those flying saucer candies. Ah the old days…

        • jeffandjill

          11/13/2014 at 11:44 pm

          Haha that’s awesome. The least they could have done is flavored the u blessed ones. Like ranch or something.

  4. What the fuck, I ain’t doing nothing needs to be the title of your autobiography. As a Catholic girl I was glad not to be an altar boy…except for those damn bells.

    • jeffandjill

      11/13/2014 at 1:15 pm

      Those bells were what it’s all about. The second best thing would be to swing that incense around during Stations of the Cross during lent. That shit was like chemical warfare. But I think the priest was the one who angled that dangle.

  5. How do I like you now? Well, considering you were once an alcoholic and a thief, you still seem like a pretty nice guy.

    • jeffandjill

      11/13/2014 at 11:29 pm

      I’m amazed I turned out the way I did. I once drank myself into a blackout at 10 in the morning when I was 15. And alcohol never became a habit for me. I’m much more addicted to coffee. I got off lucky.

      • But you’re not saying that a PSL is coffee are you? ARE YOU? I’m a total coffee purist. Speaking of which, do they have decent coffee in Chicago these days? I lived there for 5 years in the early 90’s (Hyde Park–attended U of C), and the coffee was awful until Starbucks came along. People raved about Dunkin Donuts, for Christ’s sake! Oops…hope I didn’t offend you, Altar Boy.

        I smoked pot with my older brother when I was 11. Good times! Now I’m just a coffee, tea and prescription drug addict.

        • jeffandjill

          11/16/2014 at 10:25 pm

          Not sure if you read this. It’s my coffee origin story.

          But no, I don’t consider PSL as coffee. It’s a dessert with caffeine. And the coffee loyalty in Chicago is divided between Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks with many smaller cafes in between. Nothing really stands out to me as a place worth checking out but I don’t get out much. I used to get espressos from Jamocha’s Cafe on Taylor Street. But that was many stupidities ago.

  6. So when your mom gets here to comment, should we all “look busy”?

    • jeffandjill

      11/16/2014 at 5:20 pm

      That’s the brilliance, my mom doesn’t own a computer or a smartphone. She thinks the Internet is the lining in swimwear. She totally won’t know I fucking swear.

  7. My mom has a bitchy resting face too. Your mom’s is right on point.

    Ah…6:30…time to steal the donuts. I think God was testing you, my son. About what, I have no idea. But I don’t get half of the stuff in the Bible anyway. I always sorta wanted to be an altar boy. You guys had access to the wine.

    • jeffandjill

      11/19/2014 at 3:53 pm

      Yeah, I was only there for a week. And I saw a big ole bag of unblessed wafers and it sort of killed the mystery for me to see that they didn’t bake them in the church. I guess that’s what I always thought. To know that they were delivered to the church by a UPS guy made it a little less sacred.

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